Medieval History Database (MHDB)
is designed as a collection of translations, biographies, reviews, governmental, financial and military records, 3D reproductions, academic news and other material related to medieval history.
Begun in 2005, originally intended as standalone software, the
database is currently being redesigned and expanded as primarily an online collection, partly a searchable database and partly standard HTML articles combined with online videos and interactive WebGL features.
Volunteers willing to help with the project are welcome to use the contact form to describe your background in medieval history or software
development, and planned contribution to the database.
In its earliest years, the software was based on a voxel system
which used the CPU only. In 2009 this was replaced by a polygonal system using
the video card. Work on the project accelerated in 2011 with the switch to a
better 3D graphics platform and more realistic video effects. In 2020 the process of adapting the project to an online format began, with the goal of combining
HTML (i.e. text-based articles) with WebGL applications (full software running inside a sub-window within an HTML webpage). As the project progresses, it will eventually
allow integration of databases and scholarly articles with 3D interactive displays : for example, a WebGL application could display a "walkable" model of Hever Castle with
clickable areas which link to articles on different parts of the castle, events that took place there, database entries such as financial records from the castle, or
lists of books on the subject along with reviews.
A primary goal is to make history "come to life" via a combination of 3D reconstructions
and access to detailed written records associated with various locations.
Today, so many extant medieval buildings are either in ruins or in a form which has been drastically
altered over time. But there are often surviving paintings or written descriptions which
give us a fairly clear idea of what these locations looked like in their prime. Researching
the evidence requires years of labor and usually a knowledge of the original
languages. Putting together 3D models and programming software to display the
geometry in vivid realism is also extremely time-consuming. But the final result is
the ability to explore medieval towns, cathedrals, and other locations,
the closest we can come to going back in time.
The visual effects that are currently programmed include projected
light from stained glass windows (creating glowing patches of color on objects);
shafts of light which show dust suspended in the air (creating a realistic haze effect);
based on volumetric patterns; simulation of the effects of light on different materials
such as wood, metal, glass, and stone; realistic water surfaces with reflection effects
based on viewing angle, tinting of underwater objects based on suspended matter in the
water, simulation of water flow, surface perturbation and surface flotsam, and other effects.